The United Nations conference to ‘negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’ took off at the UN headquarters in New York on 27 March 2017. The meeting was attended by more than 100 countries.
The United States, leading a coalition of more than 40 countries including Britain and France boycotted the talks. India too chose to skip the meeting. The decision was taken independently by New Delhi by taking into account the nation’s own interests but it would, however, be closely monitoring the developments at the conference.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, speaking on the sidelines of the opening day of the nuclear ban talks stated that the countries skipping the negotiations are instead committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that was brought into force in 1970 and is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
Haley further stated that being a wife and a mother, there is nothing more that she wants for her family than a world without nuclear weapons but the world was too unsafe for the US not to have nuclear weapons. She added by saying that in this day and time people cannot be protected by allowing the bad actors to have nuclear weapons and the good ones trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.
• France and UK’s ambassadors to the UN also spoke against the ban treaty negotiations saying that the security conditions were not rights to disarm the nuclear states.
• The countries leading the ban effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden. Their efforts are being backed by hundreds of NGOs.
• Among the non-nuclear states opposing the ban treaty, Australia has been the sole one in its neighbourhood to side with the nuclear-armed nations and boycott the negotiations for a new global treaty.
• Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are the prominent countries among the regional ones that have agreed to push for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Speaking on the issue, a spokeswoman from the Australian Foreign Affairs department stated that negotiating a ban without the participation of countries possessing nuclear weapons would not help the goal of reductions in nuclear arsenals.
• The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December with 113 votes in favour, 35 against and 13 abstentions that decided to "negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination" and encouraged all member states to participate
• The ban treaty was opposed by all nine known nuclear-armed states – the US, China, France, Russia, India, UK, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
• While the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Israel and Russia voted no, China, India and Pakistan abstained from voting.
• Even Japan, the only country to have suffered the devastation of nuclear bombing, voted against the talks stating that the lack of consensus over the negotiations could undermine the progress of effective nuclear disarmament.